Jacob Easley wants attention, as much as he can get, this holiday season. Known also as the Kansas Cow Man, he has made a costume change for the holiday season. Gone are udders. Now he dons antlers and a red nose.
The Cow Man has transformed into Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. And when he dons that costume, he picks up a bell and starts to ring. He hopes to be one of the top bell ringers for the Salvation Army this year, and has been looking forward to this holiday season and his transformation.
"I called and got on the list in October," he says, with a thumbs-up and a grin.
Nov. 28 he was at one of the doors of Wal-Mart, a bell in hand. He drew attention — and donations — to the Salvation Army.
This year the Harvey County Salvation Army is hoping to raise $43,000 through the kettle campaign — an increase from previous goals of $40,000. In the first week of bells, about $5,000 has come in. Ringers will be at it through Dec. 23.
Wendy Basye has been busy as the kettles campaign has started — she is in charge of collecting the kettles at the end of each shift, counting the funds raised and scheduling bell ringers to be at Wal-Mart, North Dillons and South Dillons.
She said this year will be fun, with some addedto the mix with friendly competitions.
For example, the Lions, Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs all have days. There is a friendly competition between the clubs to see which raises the most cash. Also having their own days will be three different 4-H clubs. Santa Claus is expected to ring the bell Dec. 9.
And then there is a new "Battle of the Badges," which will pit law enforcement against the fire department on Dec. 22. On that day, the Harvey County Sheriff's department will ring the bell at North Dillons, Newton Police at South Dillons and Newton Fire/EMS will be at Wal-Mart.
"I am leaning to law enforcement (winning), but I think it is going to be really close between the two," Basye said.
Eric Murphy, chief of police for Newton, told The Kansan the department hopes to win — but in this competition winning is secondary.
"We are in it," Murphy said. "I sure hope (we win). We have South Dillons. ... Salvation Army meets a need in the community and this is one way we can help give back to our community. The biggest thing is not what the department gets out of this, but what the community gets out of it. They do get to see us in a different light instead of just being around when something bad has happened."
Steve Robertson, who has rung the bell in the past, said taking some time for the effort is not new to members of Newton Fire/EMS. This year, however, is a little different with law enforcement out ringing on the same day.
"This is something we enjoy and it builds camaraderie among the crews here, and it gives us a chance to meet people and talk to them on their good days instead of their bad days," Robertson said. "There is nothing wrong with having some competition along the way as long as the community is the winner."